Mayor Anthony Copeland delivers his State of the City address. Provided image
Mayor Anthony Copeland delivers his State of the City address. Provided image
EAST CHICAGO — East Chicago Mayor Anthony Copeland touted the city's declining crime rate, $120 million in investment planned for this year, new businesses, beautification projects and overall progress during his annual State of the City address.

He called upon residents to "pay it forward" to help make the city a better place to work and live.

Copeland told a crowd at a Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce luncheon that overall crime in East Chicago fell 16% last year, continuing its ongoing downward trend.

"I credit this success to the brave men and women of our patrol division who maintain a visible and proactive presence in our streets, our detectives who work tirelessly to investigate, identify, and charge individuals who threaten the safety of our community and to the department’s commitment to implementing the latest technology to protect our community," Copeland said. "Finally, I thank the United States attorney general and other federal officials whose efforts are critical for the continual success of East Chicago."

East Chicago plans to further bulk up its Police Department this year. The city plans to hire 14 more police officers, purchase 10 more squad cars, add two more transport vehicles, install 45 new computers in patrol cars and triple the training budget.

"We will also pay it forward with an Annual Day with Our Youth, a new truancy program, and a National Night Out Against Crime," Copeland said. "I’m happy to announce that we have paid it forward for a safer community with crime going down seven years in a row."

East Chicago also plans to hire eight more firefighters, purchase new command and staff vehicles, and build the Fire Department a new $250,000 training facility. The Fire Department also will do community outreach programs, including educating the public on infant safe sleep practices and providing free delivery and setup of play cribs to East Chicago families in collaboration with the State of Indiana in an initiative to reduce infant mortality cases.

The city government will offer a 2 percent raise to all full-time non-union employees and $1,800 bonuses to all full-time employees. He also plans to raise the minimum wage for city employees to $14 an hour, up from $7.25 an hour when he took office in 2010.

East Chicago has a balanced $34 million general fund budget and a $15 million surplus going into 2019, Copeland said. The city is anticipating $120 million in public and private sector investment in 2019, including in Block Stadium, the Fitzsimmons Building redevelopment project, the Lakefront Stage by the Lake Michigan beachfront, the Roxana Marsh Bike Trail, the Calumet Housing Development, the Fresenius Medical Center and the $40 million Lakeshore Manor project that will add new senior housing.

New businesses include Fresenius, Gowdy’s and Gran Taco. Two of the city's largest employers, St. Catherine Hospital and Ameristar Casino, are expanding.

East Chicago also plans to invest $30 million in citywide street improvements and another $18 million in upgrades to its water distribution system.

"There can be no greater paying it forward moment than improving the quality of life in East Chicago," he said. "We kicked off this effort in 2018 and will double our efforts in 2019 with an, I Love My City campaign using billboards, T-shirts, sculptures, multimedia and poster contest in our schools."

Upcoming beautification projects including new landscaping along Columbus Drive, new pole banners, hanging flower baskets in the business districts, new flower pots throughout the city, new gateway signage, and new sculptures in major parks and at the Columbus Drive and Aldi roundabouts. East Chicago also expects the Figg Group will finally reopen the Cline Avenue Bridge in January 2020, more than a decade after it closed because of fears about the structural integrity.

"In closing, 'paying it forward' can make East Chicago a better place to live, work, and invest in, by creating a sense of connection," Copeland said. "We are kinder, more patient, and more supportive as we take better care of our community."

Lakefront Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Dave Ryan credited Copeland with being "personally responsible for bringing East Chicago out of financial difficulties following the last recession." Ryan said the mayor has been responsible for significant progress in the city, including "reinvigorating the harbor with new commercial and residential development, bringing new life to the East Chicago Marina and lakefront, starting to rehab the drug-infested Guthrie street, installing millions of dollars in a new fiber optic network, and rebuilding historic Block Stadium."

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